U.Va.'s Mike London says he's 'the right man for the job' and knows 'how to win'

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"I know how to win, Virginia coach says.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The tactical challenges of preparing for Georgia Tech's veer option are difficult enough. Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets are fresh off a 56-0 beatdown of Syracuse, and last year they gouged the Cavaliers 56-20.

But Virginia carries an additional burden entering Saturday's homecoming. The Cavaliers have dropped four consecutive games, two in humbling fashion, putting them at risk of a meltdown that would compromise coach Mike London's job.

Athletic director Craig Littlepage insists that London will return in 2014 for a fifth season. But if Virginia (2-5, 0-3 ACC) loses out to finish 2-10, and winless in the ACC for the first time in 32 years, that position would approach unsustainable.

Already agitated by four losing seasons in the last five years, donors and fans would clamor for a change, the potential $10 million-plus cost of buying out London and staff notwithstanding. If London remained, recruiting would be difficult at best given the obvious the win-or-else referendum that 2014 would be.

"I believe that I'm the right man for the job," London said Monday at his weekly news conference. "I believe that the process that's going on here, although painstakingly slow, is a process that will be successful.

"I'm very appreciative that the administrators and people that make those types of decisions have the utmost confidence in me. I'm 100 percent committed to winning. … I know how to win."

As a rookie head coach, London won a national championship at the University of Richmond in 2008. His Spiders reached the playoff quarterfinals in '09, and two years later, he was ACC coach of the year at Virginia.

But London's Cavaliers were 4-8 in 2010 and '12, and this season may be worse.

The most recent, and perhaps most egregious, setback was Saturday, at home, where Duke scored 35 consecutive points after Virginia had seized a 22-0 lead. Cavaliers tailback Kevin Parks called the reversal "ridiculous."

Were this isolated, fans might be more forgiving. But last year at Duke, the Blue Devils scored 28 straight points in the second half to erase a 17-14 intermission deficit. So in the last two years, Duke has outscored Virginia 56-0 in the second half.

Ridiculous squared.

London does not dispute Parks', or others', blunt words.

"You want people to speak up when things aren't going to plan," he said, "or when things aren't going right. That's part of being a good team leader or teammate. … You can't sit idly by and watch things go on and on and on without speaking up."

The repetitive nature of Virginia's decline and self-inflicted wounds — false starting on your own field-goal attempt? — is driving folks away and should give London's bosses pause. Last Saturday's crowd of 39,071 — most were long gone by game's end — was the Cavaliers' second straight under 40,000, and empty seats cost money.

"If there's no one there or it's a packed house, it's on us to get up for the games," tight end Jake McGee said.

Players described London as determined to prevent the locker room from fracturing.

"He's the most passionate man I know," guard Conner Davis said. "After the games he's always saying he's not going to let us down."

"If (players) see that in me," London said of his embrace-the-adversity mantra, "if they see that in the coaches, then they have the opportunity themselves to show that when they play on the field and we start moving forward here."

As always, Virginia hosted many recruiting targets Saturday, and one, defensive back Darious Latimore of suburban Atlanta, committed to the Cavaliers. He chose Virginia over schools such as Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Kansas State, according to Rivals.com.

Given the team's on-the-field issues, London was grateful.

"It's significant to know that there are still young men out there that believe in what's going on (here) and are committed to that," he said, adhering to NCAA policy and not identifying Latimore.

London's stern optimism notwithstanding, the doomsday scenario is not unimaginable. Virginia's five remaining opponents — Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech — are a combined 23-10. Only the 1-5 Tar Heels have a losing record, and the Tigers, Hurricanes and Hokies are among the nation's top 25.

"It's uphill from here," Davis said, "and we all know that."

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

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